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Bringing Sri Lankan Ports into the 21st Century

 

The SLPA de—stuffs over 100 containers per day (P1)

 

Background

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), which de-stuffs over 100 containers and releases over 600 cargo units per day, operates 7 warehouses in the Port of Colombo. Both the South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) and Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) send their cargo to the SLPA for handling as it is the only body in Sri Lanka authorized to handle loose cargo.

Due to a number of issues inherent in their previous system, including; high volumes of manual documentation, inaccuracy, inefficiency, and bad customer service levels, the SLPA has implemented a Cargo Management System (CMS) to digitize its clearance process. This new system will completely streamline the clearance of loose cargo for over 2000 target users island-wide, including; Shipping and Container Agents, Cargo Clearance Companies and Individual Consignees.

This state-of-the-art computerized system was created and implemented by Access International (Networking Division), a leader in the connectivity market providing a myriad of Value Added Services utilizing cloud computing and collaboration technologies. Simplifying operations, improving efficiency and increasing revenue for a number of industries from Telecommunication to Logistics to Power Generation.

 
 
Cargo Management System

Cargo Management Systems are simplifying logistics systems worldwide (P2)

System Implemented

The Cargo Management System (CMS), especially designed for port communities, allows its users to perform a range of administrative tasks such as; service requests, online payment settlements and status updates on vessel berthing, all via email or SMS, speeding up the pace of these processes and increasing their ease of use.

Due to the nature of the Cargo Clearance Process in Sri Lanka, the CMS had to streamline key processes across several government agencies. For example it had to integrate with the Sri Lanka Customs (SLC) Clearance System to allow for payment settlements and the uploading of Manifest files to receive necessary approvals.

The results for the newly implemented CMS are far superior to what it replaces; consignees are now able to create their own invoices and have SLPA approvals within 5 minutes, drastically improving the time taken for the same activity in the old system many times over.

The CMS was developed on an open source platform using PHP as its programming language, with ORACLE 10G RDBMS as the systems back end. Allowing for application support across browsers and mobile operating systems.

Some of the key technologies that were integrated into the system to facilitate this state-of-the-art supply chain management include; Tabs, SMS notifications, Wi-fi, e-payment gateways, e-manifest transfers, e-gate passes and Smartphone apps which will be used to communicate inquiries directly to the SLPA.

 
 
warehouse management

A 3D view of SLPA warehouses allows operators to pre allocate space as well as keep a better track of the items been stored (P3)

Key features

A secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connects Sri Lanka Customs (SLC) to the Cargo Management System (CMS) allowing the SLC to send approvals immediately to the CMS. Reducing the processing time and the chance of data manipulation between the two state organizations.

The CMS also connects to two state banks and three private banks to simplify the payment collection process, for SLPA services, through internet banking. These banks are connected to the CMS through equally secure individual VPNs, protected by firewalls at both ends of the connection.

The integrated mobile application pushes notifications to users regarding the status of their cargo, in addition to the SMS facility which does the same for those who choose not to use the mobile app.

The SLPA’s CMS implementation has significantly removed data manipulation issues and processing delays in cargo clearance. The old legacy system required users to submit hard copies of manifest files to be later inputted into the system manually by shipping lines and vessels agents. The new CMS allows users to login to the system directly and create their own service orders using pre-assigned usernames and passwords.

This service order is then comprehensively verified and sent automatically by the CMS to the finance division of SLPA, after which the consignee will receive a final invoice payable either via the online payment portal, or over the counter. This automated invoice generation is one of the key innovations in SLPA’s CMS.

Another innovation is the three-dimensional (3D) view of SLPA warehouses which allows warehouse operators to pre-allocate warehouse space for cargo before the Stripping Process. And also allows them to get a more accurate idea of space available in any given warehouse. Additionally, the system integrates barcode labeling to allow for automatic product identification and integrated stock control via mobile devices that can scan the barcodes.

Other benefits include:

Customs e-Release – this facility allows users to clear their cargo directly from the port online. The process employs secure VPNs to electronically communicate the cargo status between the SLC and the CMS, reducing the time taken to release cargo and minimizing the chances of dangerous and illicit cargo being loaded or unloaded in the country.

E-Payment - this is an electronic payment service that allows users to set up a secure online account and make recurring bill payments in seconds with a few clicks, increasing speed and simplifying the payment process.

Electronic Invoicing – this form of electronic billing for cargo clearance is far more accurate and efficient than the previous system, which needed the documents to be manually submitted, and therefore used to take up to several days to complete. The new CMS allows users to submit all required documents electronically from any location in the country, and will send a digital “E-Invoice” to them after the necessary approvals are obtained, simplifying the entire process significantly.

SMS Facility – the CMS automatically dispatches text alerts when cargo is ready for loading at the warehouse. This helps consignees and clearing agents to stay connected at the point of clearance streamlining the workflow.

The CMS is the first online cargo clearance system developed for a government body which connects a number of government institutes and private companies on a single platform.

The next phase of development for the CMS will be to remove the documentation process entirely for cargo clearance, and to connect all related government bodies onto the single CMS platform, with the intention of further streamlining cargo clearance in Sri Lanka.

 
 
containers

With Sri Lanka increasing its prominence as a global logistics hub it is essential that its services are streamlined (P4)

Conclusion

With Sri Lanka edging its way into the top ranks of global sea ports by volume and growth, it is refreshing and heartening to see public bodies and private companies collaborating in order to bring international best practices to the legacy systems of the Colombo Port.

However much must yet be streamlined if Sri Lanka is to secure its position as a global hub for cargo handling. But with the recent changes in policy, and through the collaboration of experts from both private and public sectors working on the existing issues together, there is world class potential for Sri Lanka’s ports.

   
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Inside Access is a local initiative powered by Access to curate and promote information with the aim of facilitating more informed conversations. The initiative works together with local organizations, private and public to create a resource of knowledge that will be beneficial to the development of individuals, business and in due course, Sri Lanka.